Project Ireland 2040: Govt launches four funds for rural development, urban regeneration, climate action & innovation totalling €4 billion

30th May, 2018

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and several Government Ministers have today launched the €4 billion Project Ireland 2040 funds for rural development, urban regeneration, climate action and innovation.


The four funds are a major innovation in Project Ireland 2040.  Rather than allocating funding in a ‘business as usual’ way to Government Departments, money will be allocated competitively to the best projects, which leverage investment from other sources thereby ensuring that the impact of this investment goes much, much further. The funds will be open to applications from state agencies, local government, business, educational institutions, chambers of commerce, and others, but the ideal applications will be collaborative efforts that break down barriers and silos. The call for applications will open in the coming weeks.


The four new funds will help to ensure balanced regional development and are designed to stimulate renewal and investment in rural and urban areas, the environment and innovation, preparing Ireland for a future with 1 million more people and 660,000 more people at work. Three quarters of new growth will be outside Dublin, with 50% of the projected population growth planned for our towns, villages and rural areas and 50% for our cities. The funds are:


  • €2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund: will secure more compact, sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other large urban centres.
  • €1 billion Rural Development Fund: will support job creation in rural areas, address de-population of rural communities and support improvements in our towns, villages and their hinterlands that enhance the quality of life of communities and enhance their attractiveness for families who want to live and work there.  
  • €500 million Climate Action Fund:will support initiatives that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets.
  • €500 million Disruptive Technologies Fund:will see investment in the development and deployment of disruptive innovative technologies and applications, on a commercial basis, targeted at tackling national and global challenges.


Speaking about the launch of the four funds today, AnTaoiseach said: 

“Three months ago we laid the foundations for the future with the launch of Project Ireland 2040. Today we are outlining how we plan to build on those foundations, through these four game-changing funds. The funds aim to regenerate our urban areas so we can have compact, sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other large urban centres; develop rural Ireland so that prosperity is shared across the whole country; prepare for the greatest challenge facing the planet by acting decisively to protect it; and transform our society through the use of disruptive technologies and, in doing so, create the jobs of the future.


“We expect our country’s population to grow by more than a million over the next twenty years, with two-thirds of a million more people at work.  That is a huge level of growth for a country of our size and we must plan for it now. Project Ireland 2040 seeks to ensure that 75% of this growth will take place outside Dublin and in particular, we have set the ambitious target that the cities of Limerick, Cork, Galway and Waterford will grow at twice the rate of Dublin. The four Funds being launched today will drive that growth and ensure that all regions have an opportunity to benefit in the economic expansion that lies ahead.”


Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD said:

“The introduction of these four funds is a major innovation in the reformed funding model outlined in the National Development Plan. The intention is that the funds will play an important role in moving away from providing funding resources to individual organisations, essentially on the basis of current investment patterns, in favour of supporting collaborative bids for funding important projects on a competitive basis.  


“The funds, which total an estimated €4 billion over the 10-year period of the National Department Plan, will be open to submissions from this summer, with funding being allocated from 2019 onwards. I believe the four funds will play a very important role in driving delivery of the National Planning Framework, developing our five cities and the strengthening our rural economies and communities.”


In signalling his intention to issue the call for proposals for the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund by the end of June, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD said:

“I am delighted to announce that the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund will commence over the summer. This is a €2 billion fund that will be available to rejuvenate key parts of our towns and cities, to ensure that they become more attractive places in which to live, work, invest and visit.  It is the first major national urban regeneration programme for 20 years.


“Under this first call for proposals over the summer, we are looking to invest up to €500 million in Exchequer funding which is available under the NDP over the four years 2019 to 2022. There will be a requirement for local authorities and other public bodies applying for this fund to invest at least 25% of the total project value from other sources including their own resources and/or complementary investments.”


Speaking about the €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said:

“I am very pleased to launch the new €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. This fund is not about business as usual; it is about ensuring that Ireland can stay ahead of the game. Our investment through the fund will help us to create and safeguard the jobs of the future.


“We’re living in the technological revolution and are looking for proposals for truly game-changing solutions. We have top-class enterprises and researchers in this country and I want to see proposals that involve collaboration between industry, colleges and public sector bodies. Combining their strengths, successful project partners will help us to build new markets and tackle important societal challenges for the benefit of the people of Ireland.”   


Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD added:

 “The new €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund will maximise the return on our investments in research over recent years and enable us to address a number of actions contained in Innovation 2020, our strategy for research and development, science and technology.


“This new fund will allow us to take research that is being performed in both the public and private sectors in such areas as healthcare, energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture and develop new solutions from that research, helping to build an ecosystem around disruptive technology and innovation and creating new markets for our enterprise sector.” 


Announcing details of the new €500 million Climate Action Fund, Minister Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD said:

“Today is a significant milestone in how we deal with climate change. These funds are about turning innovative ideas into practical action.The €500 million Climate Action Fund is a key element of the Government strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy and energy efficiency in our homes and communities.  Next month, the first call for applications to the fund will open and a wide range of innovative projects will be supported.”


Speaking about the €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring TD said:

“The launch of this fund represents an unprecedented opportunity to make a significant and sustainable impact on rural communities. The €1 billion investment over the next 10 years will be targeted at strengthening the fabric of rural Ireland.   It will support improvements in our smaller towns, villages and hinterlands to enhance their attractiveness for families and enhance the quality of life of rural communities.  The fund will also support job creation in rural areas.​ 


“The first call for proposals will be launched in the coming weeks and will focus on collaborative projects that will add value and have a transformative impact on rural areas.  The type of initiatives the fund will support will include addressing infrastructural deficits in towns and villages, encouraging entrepreneurship, and enhancing heritage and community assets in rural areas.”​



The Funds:

Project Ireland 2040 established four new funds, with a combined allocation of €4 billion to 2027. Please see below additional information on each of the four funds.


€2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund:

The primary purpose of the €2 billion Fund is to secure more compact, sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other large urban centres (the 59 eligible cities and towns are listed in the annex).  This funding, addition to normal sectoral funding streams, is designed to leverage a greater proportion of residential and commercial development, supported by infrastructure, services and amenities, within the existing built-up areas of our larger urban settlements.  


There is a total of €500m Exchequer funding to the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund over the years 2019 to 2022, with €100 million of expenditure available in 2019. An initial call for proposals is intended to be made before the end of June 2018, allowing a 14 week period for development of applications with a targeted closing date at end September 2018.  Proposals will be invited to be submitted under one of two categories:


  1. A) ‘Ready-to-go’ proposals that can be initiated in 2019.  Projects in this category will have the necessary consents (e.g. planning) in place, be at an advanced stage of design and be procurement-ready; or


  1. B) Proposals that require further development and that subject to approval in principle, may be initiated in 2019 or in subsequent years. It will be necessary to detail, as part of the bid process, the key steps required for further project development to enable project initiation.


The initial 2018 call will invite bids that may be made for funding a large project on a multi-annual basis, in respect of which project expenditure can commence in 2019. There will be further calls periodically, with funding/allocations to be increased incrementally as the programme becomes established.


Bid proposals must be on a co-funded basis and must therefore demonstrate significant stakeholder contribution in the form of a combination of wider exchequer and/or state-sector capital expenditure, local authority investment and/or land, or other asset contributions.  The co-funding contribution must comprise not less than 25% of the bid value.


There will also be a requirement for 100% (euro-for-euro) leveraging of committed wider private sector investment in the delivery of homes, community and/or commercial floorspace in urban areas, arising from investment to be made as a result of the Urban Fund.


There is a wide range of projects that will be eligible for this regeneration and development funding, including the acquisition, enabling and/or development of areas, sites and buildings, relocation of uses, public amenity works, community facilities, transport, services infrastructure and/or transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society, in an urban context.


Types of areas eligible for funding may include those that include a concentration of low-intensity uses, such as storage depots or warehousing, underutilised ‘backlands’ behind streets and buildings, or institutional sites that are suitable for re-development, as part of an overall regeneration proposal.


Eligible Cities and Towns

A list of the eligible cities and towns is included below. This may be reviewed post-2021 following the next Census.


1 Dublin City and Metropolitan Area
2 Cork City and Metropolitan Area
3 Limerick City and Metropolitan Area
4 Galway City and Metropolitan Area
5 Waterford City and Metropolitan Area
  Regional/Cross-border drivers
1 Drogheda
2 Dundalk
3 Athlone
4 Letterkenny
5 Sligo
  Towns >10,000 population 2016
1 Swords
2 Bray
3 Navan
4 Kilkenny
5 Ennis
6 Carlow
7 Tralee
8 Newbridge
9 Portlaoise
10 Balbriggan
11 Naas
12 Mullingar
13 Celbridge
14 Wexford
15 Greystones
16 Clonmel
17 Malahide
18 Carrigaline
19 Leixlip
20 Tullamore
21 Maynooth
22 Killarney
23 Arklow
24 Cobh
25 Ashbourne
26 Midleton
27 Mallow
28 Castlebar
29 Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington
30 Enniscorthy
31 Cavan
32 Wicklow
33 Tramore
34 Ballina
35 Skerries
36 Longford
  Towns <10,000 population, >2,500 jobs 2016

(eligible for either urban or rural funds)

1 Gorey
2 Shannon
3 Nenagh
4 Westport
5 Roscommon
6 Monaghan
7 Tuam
8 Thurles
9 Dungarvan
10 New Ross
11 Ballinasloe
12 Carrick-on-Shannon
13 Trim



€500 million Climate Action Fund:

The core objective of the Climate Action Fund is to support initiatives that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets in a cost effective manner. It is important to understand that this fund will be in addition to existing support measures and will seek to support projects that would not otherwise be developed.


The fund will be financed from non-exchequer revenues with excess income from the petroleum products levy redirected to the new Climate Action Fund.  This levy currently supports the National Oil Reserves Agency in carrying out its statutory duties including storage of Ireland’s strategic oil reserve. In the coming years, not all of this income will be required for these purposes providing €500m for the Climate Action Fund over the timeframe of the National Development Plan.


In June 2018, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment will open the first call for applications for both public and private sector projects. It is intended that the initial round of applications will be assessed and funding awarded by October of this year. In the coming weeks, further information on the Climate Action Fund, including the call for applications and detailed evaluation criteria will be published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.


Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund:

The €500 million challenge-based Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is to be implemented through the Department of Business and its agencies, working with other research funding bodies to develop Ireland’s innovation ecosystem and responsiveness. The fund will see investment in the development and deployment of disruptive innovative technologies and applications, on a commercial basis, targeted at tackling national and global challenges. 


A capital funding allocation of €180 million is being made available to the end of 2022. The first call under the fund will be launched in June with a view to announcing the successful projects in November. 


The fund is important in positioning Ireland for the future and we expect that projects approved under this fund will be well-placed to leverage EU funding thereafter. It is explicitly linked to National Strategic Outcome 5 in Project Ireland 2040 (A Strong Economy, supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills) but it is also envisaged the fund that will support projects potentially linked to several of the National Strategic Outcomes called out in the plan.


The Government Decision of 6 March 2018 confirms that the revised Research Priority Areas for 2018-2023 will inform the design of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund and so our calls will align with the six themes identified in our research prioritisation exercise: ICT; Health and Wellbeing; Food; Energy, Climate Action and Sustainability; Manufacturing and Materials; Services and Business Processes. 


Within each of these six themes, we have identified specific priority areas including Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Health and Wellbeing, Advanced and Smart Manufacturing and Smart and Sustainable Food Production and Processing. 


€1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund:

The overall objective of this fund is to deliver the strategic outcomes of Project Ireland 2040, and in particular to strengthen rural economies rural communities by rejuvenating smaller towns and villages, helping to diversify employment opportunities in rural areas, supporting the development of rural communities and improving their quality of life.  The fund will target towns with a population of less than 10,000 people, as well as villages and outlying rural areas.​


Detailed criteria are now being developed for the first call for proposals which will be announced in the coming weeks. The fund will encourage collaborative approaches between Departments, agencies, Local Authorities and other public bodies, and the private sector, where appropriate, to pool their assets and work with communities to transform our rural towns and villages and their outlying areas.  Proposals will be expected to be consistent with the National Planning Framework objectives and provide a strategic integrated approach which is consistent with regional and local plans for the area. 


Projects must demonstrate a capacity to add value to other public investments. There will be a requirement for a co-funding contribution from other public or private sources – expected to be of the order of 25%.  The first phase will also allow for technical supports for preparatory groundwork for future phase investments, through Local Authorities and other locally based organisations.